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Back width, lat size, and upper back development are all very important aspects of a symmetrical, well-developed physique. There are tons of articles written about these subjects.
But what about back thickness? A deep “drainage ditch” back is not only important for aesthetics but the strength that comes with building a thick back is important for injury prevention and functional strength.
Any reader of Muscle and Fitness should know the importance of compound movements in developing size and strength. Compound movements are especially important for working the lower and mid back area. Some isolation movements can be helpful in developing back thickness but to build the size we want… compound movements are king!
Obviously this is the number move for back development. There is nothing quite like a heavy-ass deadlift for adding slabs of meat to your back. On top of working the muscles of the back effectively, the hormonal response elicited by deadlifts is highly favorable to muscle building. Done correctly, the deadlift will help build a back that is far less likely to sustain an injury. There are lots of variations of the deadlift that can also be beneficial, like the deficit deadlift or heavy rack pulls.
This is a favorite of disciples of Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell method. Good mornings are a great posterior chain movement but if done with poor form can easily lead to back injury. To perform the good morning get the bar on your traps, like a high bar squat. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, lower back arched, and upper back nice and tight. Push your hips and butt back and bend forward. Keep going down until you can’t keep an arched back position and then reverse the movement and return to an erect position. Make sure to stay tight the entire time.
This is not just a glute and hamstring exercise, this is also a great way to strengthen the musculature of the back. To perform the RDL start in a standing position with feet shoulder width apart and knees in a slight bend (10-15 degrees) Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. You want a slight arch in your back, chest up, and scapulae retracted. This position must be kept throughout the entire lift. Take a breath and tighten your abs and lower back. Then push your hips back as you lower the bar, keeping it close to your body. Your weight should be on your heels and your initial back arch and degree of knee bend should remain constant. Continue lowering the bar close to your body until right before you reach the point where you can’t hold your arched back position any longer. Reverse the direction of the bar by squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips through.
Add in these exercises and start digging out that drainage ditch back.